Commish speaks: Daniel Negreanu on the $25k fantasy poker draft

GGPoker ambassador Daniel Negreanu at the World Poker Tour World Championship 2022 in Las Vegas
Terrance Reid
Posted on: May 29, 2023 05:40 PDT

As the 54th annual World Series of Poker finally arrives with its first event tomorrow, a select group of poker players is preparing to gamble it up tonight.

There will be no cards, but I expect a ton of fun action. Oh, and many color-coded Excel spreadsheets.

Tonight is the 12th iteration of the $25k Fantasy Draft featuring Daniel Negreanu as the commissioner of the league. Many consider the draft tonight an unofficial start to the summer slate, a kick-off party featuring elite players, bragging rights, and top-tier prediction.

"I've been doing this for 12 years," said Negreanu. "It's grown not just by me, but the guy who runs does an incredible job running that site. I'm certain this will be the biggest year ever."

How does a poker fantasy draft work?

Fantasy sports players will be very familiar with an auction draft concept, which is what Negreanu's league uses.

Players will build a team of eight poker players. Teams on the block will nominate any poker player they like with an opening bid, and then an auctioneer (Tim Duckworth) will handle open bidding for that player. All teams can bid until that player is "sold," now owned for the whole summer by the buying team.

Each team gets a virtual $200 to spend how they please. Really like one player and need him at all costs? Spend away, but you'll have to contend with not being able to spend as much on your other players.

"It opens up a lot of opportunity for different strategies," said Negreanu. "You can go with what's called the 'stars and scrubs,' that's some big players and some cheaper ones. Or, you can go for a more mid-range team."

A player earns points when they cash an event at the WSOP. Points vary based on field size, buy-in, where they placed, and a few other factors. And of course, cashing in the prestigious Main Event earns 3x points.

"I prepare very extensively," Negreanu explained. "I have a spreadsheet. I take all the players, and I put them into tiers. I color-code them. It's a living breathing document that changes as things happen. The number one rule is: Don't bid on players that you haven't spoken to or know about."

The minor leagues

If you love poker and fantasy sports, you might be loving this concept. But, $25k is a lot to pony up. You're in luck.

"Mark Gregorich created a minor league, if you will, of a $2,500 buy-in," said Negreanu. "And then David Baker created a pool that uses the values from the draft, much like you'd see on a Daily Fantasy site, and you can build your teams based on those totals. That's a $500 buy-in."

Who would Negreanu rather have on his team?

I put Negreanu on the spot to get some insight into his picks. I asked him, all else being equal and paying the same price, who would he rather have on his team between two players.

TJ: Alright Daniel, five coming at you. Who would you rather have: Mike Matusow or Darren Elias?

Daniel: I'm going Darren Elias, sorry Mike.

TJ: Phil Hellmuth or Phil Ivey?

Daniel: Well, I know Ivey's schedule, so that's going to be Phil Hellmuth. Ivey's not going to be playing much.

TJ: Adam Hendrix or Josh Arieh?

Daniel: That's a very good one. It's a close one. I don't know, I had Josh on my team last year, so I'll stick with Josh.

TJ: Allen Kessler or Justin Bonomo?

Daniel: I don't think I want...I just don't want Bonomo on my team. I don't wanna have to root for him. So I'm gonna go with Alllen Kessler. Oh my God. That's a minus-EV play that I just made.

Allen Kessler

TJ: EV isn't everything. Last one, and I think I know the answer. Shaun Deeb or Daniel Negreanu?

Daniel: If there's any year that I would take myself over Shaun Deeb, it's this year. He's on a weight loss bet. So he'll be eating [fewer] calories, working out; I expect him to be more tired. He typically does whatever he's got to do during the series. And I think people underestimate how much more difficult that's going to be for him to play the schedule that he does because he's a guy that I'm very impressed with. He can play for 15 hours and he's still wide awake and fresh. I think that he may suffer in that regard a little bit, but we'll see. You never know.

You can watch the full interview below.

When it goes down

The draft happens this evening in Las Vegas at the PokerGO studio. PokerGO will be streaming the event live on their YouTube channel.

We'll have a team on-site to bring you inside the draft room. Some of the biggest names in poker will be flexing their fantasy sports skills, so follow us on our socials to get a glimpse at the inner circle from behind the scenes.